Supercharging A/R productivity: Common pitfalls and improvements to know

As hospitals struggle with residual volume losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, administrators are looking for ways to improve revenue by boosting receivables management and agent productivity.

Account rep productivity is often hampered by the average time reps spend on phone calls trying to collect from payers. Revenue cycle leaders often can't see the complete picture of what their reps do every day within payers' interactive voice response (IVR) systems, which allow workers to interact with a computer-operated phone system using their voice and a keypad. 

During an Aug. 17 webinar sponsored by Ontario Systems and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, Ontario Systems executives outlined the common pitfalls providers fall into when managing A/R teams, how to boost account reps’ productivity, and how to improve their performance during A/R discussions with payers.

Here are four takeaways from the webinar, which featured Shawn Yates, director of healthcare product management at Ontario Systems, and Mike Mullins, the company’s senior director of enterprise sales. 

1. The inability to measure how much time account reps spend navigating the IVR system is a pitfall many providers face. Some IVR systems have up to 15 prompts to enter information — a process that takes two to three minutes on average but can often be longer and vary widely among payers.

"What this reveals is the old saying: It's hard to manage what you can't measure. This is often a challenge for providers," Mr. Mullins said. 

2. Another common pitfall is not understanding the actual talk time account reps have with payers. Provider organizations may see that a phone call was made but not know the ratio of hold time versus talk time. Additionally, many providers lack insight into whether reps are maximizing their time by addressing three to four claims per call (which many payers allow) as opposed to one. 

"When you don't have this kind of visibility, it's challenging to set accurate and realistic production goals for your account representatives," Mr. Mullins said. "Providers need a way to monitor this."

3. Mr. Mullins and Mr. Yates outlined several improvements that can help providers better measure and understand account rep productivity. They advised listeners to:

  • Quickly identify hotspot areas for more rapid improvement 
  • Keep track of how many accounts reps work per call
  • Use artificial intelligence to predict hold times 
  • Work more than one account for each call to lower the amount of unproductive time spent calling back

4. Mr. Mullins and Mr. Yates also emphasized the importance of technology solutions to reduce IVR navigation and hold times. Using AI to estimate hold times and navigate IVR can eliminate up to 80 percent of time agents spend waiting on hold. If AI estimates a hold time will be 20 minutes, agents know they can use that time to prepare three or four accounts to discuss rather than sitting idle.

To view a recording of the webinar, click here

To learn more about Ontario Systems, click here.

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